Lady Boss: Get the Guts to Negotiate

April 14th marked the 19th observance of Equal Pay Day, an event spearheaded by the National Committee on Pay Equity to draw attention to the wage gap between men and women. Breaking the gap down to cents may make it seem negligible, but the effects add up over time. By the age of 65, the average woman loses out on $435, 000 in potential earnings. While we’ve made progress since 1963 (when the gap was 59 cents for every dollar), we still have miles to go. Under the hashtag #Ask4More, organizations around the country encouraged women who have the opportunity to negotiate to take of the privilege.


But where do you start? Fortunately, Lady Boss hosted a “Get the Guts to Negotiate” event and invited Ji Eun (Jamie) Lee to show us the ropes. During the day, Lee serves as Director of Operations for a tech startup. But at night, she nurtures her side hustle: teaching women how to negotiate the compensation they deserve. Lee knows from experience that compensation and talent don’t always align. When she made a career change from retail and wholesale into finance, she admits that she didn’t do her homework before she accepted an offer. Instead, she added a small amount to her existing start up salary. By the time she found out what hedge fund employees made, it was too late to backpedal.

Do Your Homework

Fortunately, Lee learned from her mistake and became exceptionally good at helping other women avoid similar pitfalls. Lee explained that 80% of negotiation lies in doing your homework. Before you approach your boss for a promotion or raise, you must first make your case. Take a look at your job description and quantify everything you’ve done. How have you increased revenue? How have you cut costs? What are your tangible contributions to the company? What is your future potential at your company? Your request must be bolstered by evidence of the value you bring to the organization.

Once you’ve assembled the evidence, look up the market value of your position at other companies to help guide your anchor point, or your “ask” number. Don’t be afraid to stretch and set an anchor that seems a little too high; hiring managers admit that, if left to their own devices, their go-to behavior is to lowball. And remember: you always have the right to say no, so be sure to brainstorm potential alternatives to a negotiated agreement. Maybe you have another job offer in your back pocket or a potential freelance opportunity to give you leverage. By having a plan B, you give yourself an extra card to play. Print out your list of accomplishments along with the market value figures and make an appointment with your hiring manager or boss.

Take The Plunge

When you sit down for that meeting, fake it ‘til you make it. You’re going to be nervous, but it’s important, as Lee says, to “ask with guts and all.” Project your request with conviction and confidence. Make eye contact as you state your case and draw attention to the facts you bring in writing. Most importantly, speak warmly and openly from the heart but remember that you can always exercise your right to say “no.” Negotiation can be emotional, but your goal is to communicate your needs while making the other side feel respected and heard.

Even after all this leg work, you may not get what you want. But, as Lee points out, it’s important to diagnose the “no.” If your offer is not accepted, follow up with a diagnostic question: “When is a better time to revisit this conversation?” “Who else can we involve in the conversation?” “What kind of experience would you like to see in a candidate for that role?” By asking questions, you learn more information about the situation and are in a better position to make adjustments. If you receive a counter offer, be ready to revisit your best alternatives to assess if it’s a good option. Remember, negotiation is less about compromise and more focused on mutual benefit. Never forget that you, too, have the right to say “no.”

Required Reading

Want to get started? Check out Lee’s scripts and worksheets designed to help you take the plunge. Fill them out and practice with a friend to help you get the routine down pat. Once you’re ready, put on your boss boots and go get what you want! Huge thanks to Ji Eun and Tracy Candido of Lady Boss for another stellar event.

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